January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Add a comprehensive eye exam to your list of healthy resolution

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month sponsored by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eye physicians dedicated to the advanced treatment of eye disease.

If you are confused about Glaucoma and what it is, you are not alone. Glaucoma is one of the most damaging and insidious eye conditions because it often begins without warning. It’s estimated that nearly 3 million adults in the U.S. have Glaucoma, yet only half of those know they have it. That’s a scary thought because Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in America and can affect anyone of any age.

Technically, Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that lead to progressive damage of the Optic Nerve. Think of the Optic Nerve as a cable, carrying vital visual signals and information to the brain. If fibers become damaged, visual signals are disrupted and the picture is lost. Damage to the optic nerve from Glaucoma can result in an irreversible loss – even blindness – if left untreated.

Glaucoma begins by attacking the periphery, causing vision on the outermost corners to diminish. Early results are barely perceptible. But glaucoma can accelerate quickly; causing eyesight to rapidly and irreversibly deteriorate. As much as 40% of vision can be lost before a person begins to notice and take action.2

Primary open-angle glaucoma is often called the “the silent thief of vision” because, in early and middle stages, there are usually no noticeable symptoms until irreversible damage has occurred.3 When a person has glaucoma, they often have increased intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. In some cases, glaucoma can be present with normal IOP ranges, referred to as Normal Tension Glaucoma (NTG).

Anyone can develop glaucoma, but certain factors place you at higher risk.4

  • Elevated Intra-Ocular Pressure (IOP)
    Age 40 or above
  • Hispanic or African-American descent
  • Family history – primary open-angle glaucoma is hereditary
  • Medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Current or previous eye injury

Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. This reinforces recommendations by the American Academy of Ophthalmology: adults need regular, comprehensive eye exams.

Medicare and other Insurance plans cover most or all of the cost of a comprehensive exam with an Ophthalmologist, or Eye MD. Ask your eye doctor or insurance company for more information.

References: (1) American Academy of Ophthalmology (aao.org); (2) Alcon (alcon.com); (3) Glaucoma Research Foundation (glaucoma.org); (4) Prevent Blindness (preventblindness.org).